Zero Vision in DOT’s “Great Streets” Plan to Revamp Atlantic Avenue

This is one of the marquee Vision Zero projects under the "Great Streets" initiative. Image: DOT [PDF]
This is one of the marquee Vision Zero projects under the “Great Streets” initiative. Image: DOT [PDF]
The de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero “Great Streets” initiative aims to improve safety on the city’s most dangerous streets. Will NYC DOT implement designs that are bold enough to save lives and prevent serious injuries? It’s not looking that way on Atlantic Avenue.

The Great Streets program dedicated $250 million to rebuild and redesign four arterial streets. Designs for three of the streets, including Atlantic, have now been revealed. The biggest change is coming to Queens Boulevard, which will be getting its first stretch of protected bike lanes later this summer and a full reconstruction in the next few years. A road diet and wider pedestrian medians on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, already implemented with temporary materials, will be cast in concrete. The redesign of the Grand Concourse has yet to be made public.

Atlantic Avenue covers more than 10 miles from the Brooklyn waterfront to the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens. DOT’s $60 million Great Streets project focuses on two miles from Pennsylvania Avenue to Rockaway Parkway. The bulk of the project is in East New York, where the de Blasio administration also wants to spur housing growth. (This part of Atlantic does not overlap with the section to the west where the Department of City Planning is studying potential changes and where street safety advocates are focusing their efforts.)

The first phase covers the western half of that two-mile zone, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Conduit Avenue. Here Atlantic is 90 feet wide, and the crash rate is higher than on 90 percent of Brooklyn streets, according to DOT [PDF]. Two pedestrians and one motor vehicle occupant have been killed on this 1.2-mile segment since 2009. From 2009 to 2013, 37 people suffered severe injuries, two-thirds of them car occupants. Of the 993 total traffic injuries, nine out of 10 were sustained by people in motor vehicles.

The design proposed by DOT will make Atlantic look nicer and probably yield a marginal improvement in safety, but it does not fundamentally alter the geometry of the street.

The city is proposing raised medians featuring seating areas. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT is proposing raised medians with seating areas. Image: DOT [PDF]
Atlantic already has pedestrian medians. Under the redesign, some of them would be extended further into the intersection and receive bell bollards for protection. The plan would also raise, but not widen, the existing median in an attempt to discourage people from crossing midblock. There would be benches at pedestrian crossings, as well as trees and other plantings in the median.

The design would be similar to the high medians on Houston Street, Broadway on the Upper West Side, and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, another “Great Streets” project, is also in line for raised medians.

At seven crash-prone locations between Pennsylvania and Conduit, DOT is proposing other measures. The agency wants to add left turn lanes in the median at some of these intersections, which would remove pedestrian space, as well as left turn bans, curb extensions, and, in one location, a midblock crossing. The agency says it is still reviewing options at these locations during this preliminary design phase.

The street will not receive a road diet or bike lanes. DOT would not say whether it will narrow the width of the motor vehicle lanes, which could reduce speeding. “Regarding lane width,” a spokesperson said, “DOT is in the early planning stages and has recently begun planning to reach out to local stakeholders in order to start the community input gathering process.”

DOT made a presentation about Atlantic Avenue to Brooklyn Community Board 5 on June 24. The agency is working with the Department of Design and Construction on the plan, which it hopes to finalize by August 2016. Construction should begin in spring 2017 and wrap a year later. A future phase will cover Atlantic between Conduit Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard.

  • ahwr

    Rationalizing the tolling gets trucks out of Manhattan, but you need to spend money raising bridges on the belt if you want the trucks off surface streets like Atlantic except for the proverbial last mile.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    great idea – a multi-modal container ship terminal on the East end of Long Island which would be able to support much of the freight – cargo needs of the 7.8 million people living on Long Island.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Joe,

    agreed – free parking is the scourge of all subsidizes.

    However, the other day I parked on First Avenue – meter cost $3,50/ hour. A good start. The underground garage close by was $10 for an hour.

    The parking situation is getting better little by little. for example –

    I used to drive from UWS to lower Manhattan anytime da’ wife and I had a date night. It used to be easy to get free parking anywhere. These days impossible to find free parking.

    Today, we ride bikes on date nights. It is faster, easier, and more enjoyable.

  • Joe R.

    And you both get exercise which never hurts. That’s really the beauty of biking in NYC. It’s generally as fast, or at least not that much slower, than any other option. When you factor in needing less time to set aside just for pure exercise, you end up saving time overall.

    That said, I just ride recreationally but I work at home, and all the places I run errands are within easy walking distance (3/4 mile or less). So for me anyway utility cycling is mostly a solution in search of a problem. Nevertheless, with better bike parking and less motor traffic, I could see it being useful occasionally even for myself. I would love bike share stations at subway stations in Queens, and along the feeder bus routes to those stations. When I went to Manhattan recently, the 2.5 mile bus ride to the subway took 25 to 30 minutes each way counting waiting time. That would have been an easy 10 to 12 minute ride for me if bike share had been available.

  • Tyson White

    A bike lane would be too controversial, huh?

  • Matt

    “Install high visibility crosswalks” aka “Finally repaint faded crosswalks”.

  • kevd

    It isn’t a lower per gallon tax. It is the same per gallon tax for all vehicles.
    As average fuel efficiencies rise, you just raise the per gallon tax accordingly to continue funding what needs to be funded, which creates further efficiency incentives.

    I’m entirely on board with your final paragraph.
    Significantly higher gas taxes (I think even going to a $0.75/gallon federal tax would massively transform transportation and city planning in this country)
    And congestion pricing in the few places that need it (like Manhattan).

  • Matthias

    Agreed that freight is missing from the discussion. Trucks like wide roadways and corners that cars can use as a racetrack. Small freight vehicles increase logistics costs and overall traffic & pollution. We need to improve street safety while considering freight, perhaps incentivizing trucks to use highways and getting rid of unnecessary car traffic.

  • Kevin Love

    Utrecht is part of the Randstad conurbation, with a population of 7.1 million. Unlike in New York City, the Randstad was not politically unified.

    Or we could start with a downtown Manhattan car-free zone “only” as big as Utrecht’s.

  • ahwr

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/car-free-city-centre-in-utrecht/

    https://bicycledutch.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/pedestrian-zone.jpg

    Today the car free zone is quite extensive in Utrecht. All the streets I highlighted in green are permanently car free. The orange line is a street for buses only. In some of these green streets cycling is allowed, but most are really only for pedestrians.

    Closing the street to cars to make a pedestrian space, maybe accommodate bikes when there’s room and demand for space is low enough to squeeze them in?

    You know that isn’t much bigger than the car free area around NYSE and some of the other super blocks that readers here don’t always seem to be huge fans of.

  • A Tree

    This argument would make sense if the above proposal was to ban cars from Atlantic Ave. But it isn’t.

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